Budget & Finance

Most Edison Schools Report Rise in Test Scores

By Mark Walsh — April 14, 1999 3 min read
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Achievement trends are heading steadily upward at the vast majority of Edison Project schools that have been open for more than a year, the company said last week in its second annual report on school performance.

Edison students are gaining, on average, 5 percentage points annually on nationally normed achievement tests and 6 percentage points on state criterion-referenced tests, according to the April 7 report.

For More Information
For a free copy of the Edison Project’s “Second Annual Report on School Performance,” call (212) 419-1733. The report is also available in PDF format at: www.edisonproject.com/annualframe.html (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Of the 17 Edison Project schools that have been able to establish achievement trends, 14 have records that the company characterized as either positive or strongly positive. Three schools have what the company called mixed records of achievement, and none had negative or strongly negative trends.

“Edison schools have an excellent record of boosting achievement as measured by a wide range of external assessments,” the report says.

As of this school year, the Edison Project manages 51 regular public schools or charter schools with a total enrollment of nearly 25,000 students. The New York City-based company’s plans to develop a profitable national system of schools have been closely watched by educators and investors.

Edison’s school design is based on rigorous curriculum standards, a longer school day and year, and heavy use of technology. Edison has announced plans to issue stock options to its employees and has a goal of becoming a publicly held company and issuing stock within a year or so.

Variety of Tests

Edison’s achievement results have come under close scrutiny, particularly by the American Federation of Teachers, which opposes the private management of public schools. The AFT issued a report last year charging that the company overstates achievement gains at some schools and downplays negative results at others. The union’s World Wide Web site includes updates to that report in which it analyzes test results reported by the school districts that have contracts with Edison.

Celia Lose, an AFT spokeswoman, said last week that the union would have no immediate comment on the latest Edison report.

John Chubb, the Edison Project’s executive vice president for curriculum, instruction, and assessment, said the company had laid all of its results on the table.

“We have tried in this report, by presenting every piece of data we have, to let people judge for themselves,” he said. “We believe the appropriate measure is whether children are moving forward.”

The report includes profiles of all 25 Edison schools open before this year, although eight of the schools have only enough achievement data to establish a baseline.

The results are based on a mix of nationally normed tests, such as the Metropolitan Achievement Test-7th Edition and the Stanford Achievement Test-9th Edition, as well as on state-mandated tests. Edison schools typically participate in the same tests as other schools in each district.

“No school is behind where it was,” Mr. Chubb said. “We’ve been able to bring about progress on a broader scale.”

Problem Schools

The report plays down the significance of comparing Edison Project schools with “control” schools or with other schools in a district.

“Because Edison schools are launched by partnership communities to raise achievement not only in the Edison school but, through healthy competition and the diffusion of innovations, in all schools in a community, it is not a straightforward matter to estimate the relative success of an Edison school,” the report argues.

“In a ‘choice’ system, you are supposed to see progress in all of the competing alternatives,” Mr. Chubb said.

The schools with the “mixed” results are the Boston Renaissance Charter School in Boston, with an elementary school that opened in 1995 and a middle school that opened in 1996, and the Mid-Michigan Public School in Lansing, Mich.

At Boston Renaissance, achievement on the Stanford-9 slipped during the school’s second and third years. And in the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System results released last December, 91 percent of the school’s 8th grade students failed the mathematics portion of the test. Statewide, 41 percent of 8th graders failed the math portion.

The report says the school’s results are due to turnover in the headmaster’s post. The school has had a new headmaster since last fall, and Edison officials say they expect results to improve.

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A version of this article appeared in the April 14, 1999 edition of Education Week as Most Edison Schools Report Rise in Test Scores


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